The Life of Captain George Smith

Captain George Smith was a Freemason of some distinction during the latter part of the 18th century. Although born in England, he entered the military service of Prussia (being connected with noble families of the kingdom). During his residency in the kingdom he was initiated in one of the German Lodges.

On his return to England he was appointed Inspector of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, and published The Universal Military Dictionary in 1779ce, and Bibliotheca Miliaris in 1783ce.

Brother Smith devoted much attention to Masonic studies, and was noted to be a good workman in the Royal Military Lodge at Woolwich, of which he spent four years as Master. During his Mastership the Lodge had been opened in the King’s Bench prison, and some persons who were confined there were initiated. For this the Master and Brethren were censured, and the Grand Lodge declared that “it is inconsistent with the principles of Masonry for any Freemason’s Lodge to be held, for the purpose of making, passing, or raising Masons, in any prison or place of confinement”.

Brother Smith was appointed by the Duke of Manchester to be the Provincial Grand Master of Kent in 1778ce, and on that occasion he delivered his Inaugural Charge before the Lodge of Friendship at Dover. He also drew up a Code of Laws for the government of the Province, which was published in 1781ce.

In 1780ce he was appointed Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge; but objections having been made by Heseltine, the Grand Secretary, between whom and himself there was no very kind feeling, on the ground that no one could hold two offices in the Grand Lodge, Smith resigned at the next Quarterly Communication. As at the time of this appointment there was really no law forbidding the holding of two offices, its impropriety was so manifest, that the Grand Lodge adopted a regulation that “it is incompatible with the laws of this society for any Brother to hold more than one office in the Grand Lodge at the same time.”

Captain Smith, in 1783, published a work entitled The Use and Abuse of Freemasonry: a work of the greatest utility to the Brethren of the Society, to Mankind in general, and to the Ladies in particular. The interest to the ladies consists in some twenty pages, in which he gives the “Ancient and Modern reasons why the ladies have never been accepted into the Society of Freemasons,” a section the omission of which would scarcely have diminished the value of the work or the reputation of the author.

The work of Brother Smith would not at the present day, in the advanced progress of Masonic knowledge, enhance the reputation of its writer. But at the time when it appeared, there was a great dearth of Masonic literature — Anderson, Calcott, Hutchinson, and Preston being the only authors of any repute that had as yet written on the subject of Freemasonry. There was much historical information contained within its pages, and some few suggestive thoughts on the symbolism and philosophy of the Order. To the Craft of that day the book was therefore necessary and useful. Nothing, indeed, proves the necessity of such a work more than the fact that the Grand Lodge refused its sanction to the publication on the general ground of opposition to Masonic literature.

Northouck, in commenting on the refusal of a sanction, says:

No particular objection being stated against the abovementioned work, the natural conclusion is, that a sanction was refused on the general principle that, considering the flourishing state of our Lodges, where regular instruction and suitable exercises are ever ready for all Brethren who zealously aspire to improve in masonical knowledge new publications are unnecessary on a subject which books cannot teach. Indeed, the temptations to authorship have effected a strange revolution of sentiments since the year 1720, when even ancient manuscripts were destroyed, to prevent their appearance in a printed Book of Constitutions! for the principal materials in this very work, then so much dreaded, have since been retailed in a variety of forms, to give consequence to fanciful productions that might have been safely withheld, without sensible injury, either to the Fraternity or to the literary reputation of the writers.

 

To dispel such darkness almost any sort of book should have been acceptable. The work was published without the sanction, and the Craft being wiser than their representatives in the Grand Lodge, the edition was speedily exhausted. In 1785ce Captain Smith was expelled from the Society for “uttering an instrument purporting to be a certificate of the Grand Lodge recommending two distressed Brethren.”

Brother Doctor George Oliver describes Captain Smith as a man “plain in speech and manners, but honourable and upright in his dealings, and an active and zealous Mason.” It is probable that he died about the end of the 18th or the beginning of the 19th century.

Most of the information in this blog comes from the article GEORGE SMITH - From Albert Mackey’s Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry

Linking the Knights Templar to Freemasonry

KT LogoAs many of you are undoubtedly aware, there are several small-crafttheories regarding a possible physical relationship between Freemasonry and the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, commonly known as the Knights Templar.

 

Many modern scholars vehemently refuse to examine objectively the prospect of any connection between the two Orders, however, there is a significant handful of learned scholars whose hearts and imaginations have been stirred by the possibility and who keep tripping over little hints of evidence which keep the theories alive.

 

The purpose of this Blog is to acquaint you with a theory that could suggest a potential Link between Freemasonry and the ancient Knights Templar.  This Link is represented by the St Clair (Modern: Sinclair) family of Scotland and a small unfinished Collegiate  chapel, constructed and lying in a tiny hamlet just south of Edinburgh, named Rosslyn.

After the Dissolution

When Pope Clement V and King Philip of France affected the successful dissolution of the Templars on 13th October 1307ce, many knights escaped and some managed to take refuge in the highlands of Scotland. The Scots were currently embroiled in a struggle for sovereignty and against their neighbours, England.

robert-de-bruce

 

Their emerging leader, Robert De Bruce, was then under an order of excommunication issued by the Pope and was at war with Edward II of England and his allies.

Consequently, having nothing to loose, De Bruce gave his approval for the outlawed Templars to be sheltered and merged into the Knights Hospitallier or to take refuge in the Highlands of Scotland, thus enabling them to live out their lives.

 

Seven years later, in 1314ce, Sir Henry St. Clair, who was allegedly a member of the Knight Templar, and his two sons, William and Henry, took part in the famous Battle of Bannockburn where the Scots were able to preserve an independent Scotland for the King, Robert the Bruce.

 

An exciting and romantic legend links the Templars to the battle of Bannockburn. The legend tells us that Scots were outnumbered three to one and were struggling desperately against the forces of Edward II, losing men and ground rapidly, when there appeared on the horizon a well-equipped and obviously highly professional band of knights in full armor and mounted on heavy horses. the knights, although superbly equipped and obviously experienced in military battle tactics, bore no markings on their shields and carried no battle standards flying their colours.

 

These mysterious soldiers joined the battle on the side of King Robert the Bruce and quickly turned the tide in favour of the Scots who won the battle and freedom for Scotland. The knights then rode off over the horizon without making known their identities or from whence they came.

 

Many scholars believe these mysterious knights to be a contingent of the refugee and internationally outlawed Knights Templar that the King had permitted to take refuge in the highlands. Were they returning the favor while pledging loyalty to Scotland and King Robert the Bruce?  There is a Masonic degree based on this story.

 

Many sources tell us that years later, Sir Henry St. Clair was appointed the Hereditary Grand Master of all the Masonic guilds of Scotland by royal charter (the King of Scotland remains the Sovereign Grand master).

 

This Hereditary Grand mastership was to abide with the Sinclair family until 1736ce, when Sir Henry’s heir, Sir William St. Clair of Rosslyn resigned his stewardship of the Scottish Masons to affect the creation of the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland. A body to which he was immediately elected the Grand Master.

Rosslyn Chapel

rosslyn_chapelIn 1440ce a mere 133 years (just two generations) after the suppression of the Templars by King Philip and Pope Clement, the Earl of Orkney, a descendant of Sir William St. Clair designed and began the project of building a church in the family seat of Rosslyn. His intention was to build a great sanctuary to the glory of God and the Templar tradition. It was to be constructed in the form of a cross with a lady Chapel and a high tower in the centre.

 

He imported the best stonemasons available, as well as tradesmen from the other guilds as necessary. The Master masons were paid a sum of 40 pounds per annum and the lesser skilled masons were paid 10 pounds. Simultaneously, he built the small hamlet of Rosslin to support and house his craftsmen during the project and see to their every need. The great sanctuary’s construction was never completed.

 

Through the centuries, St Clair’s unfinished sanctuary survived several invading armies and the brutalities of the Reformation as well as Scotland’s civil war of the mid-seventeenth century. It’s said that during this period, the armies of Oliver Cromwell occupied the areas in and around Edinburgh, including Rosslyn. Indicative of the disdain for which the Puritan church and Cromwell held divergent theological beliefs, after razing nearby Rosslyn castle, Cromwell stabled his invading troops horses and livestock in the chapel at Rosslyn.

 

There is a legend that says Cromwell recognizing the exoteric religious and Masonic symbolism and himself being a Brother, the unit’s commander was careful to preserve and protect the chapel and its artifacts during his troops occupation. Other religious structures and their icons did not fare as well during this turbulent time.

 

The Dirge of Rosabell is described in prose as our Brother Sir Walter Scott spoke of the ancient Barons of Rosslyn who were buried in the crypt of the chapel. His famous poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel speaks of the ghosts and spirits of the honoured knights laid to rest in the ancient Gothic chapel’s crypt.

 

In 1787ce, our esteemed Brother Robert Burns, the recognized Poet laureate of Scotland and Masonry visited the chapel with a friend and artist, Alexander Nasmyth and implored him to paint his portrait while at Rosslyn.

Conclusion

The chapel that remains today, many scholars say, is probably one of the most remarkable examples of Gothic architecture in Scotland, not because of its design when viewed primarily from and architectural point of view, but because of the profusion of overt and esoteric design and symbolism shown in such abundance everywhere within the chapel.

 

When first viewed Rosslyn Chapel has an almost haunting quality exhibited not only in its Gothic spires and flying buttresses, but the chapel’s spiritual and ghostly esoteric qualities are manifested in the profuse and intricate carvings and hieroglyphics evidenced on the interior’s every square inch of masonry surface.

 

In this small cathedral, it’s a short and misty road from the present to the past. It’s a place where you enter into a world of “intellectual oblivion” expressed in design and stone by our spiritual Brothers of a different time. It is impossible, in this environment to deny that the genesis of our Order is shrouded in esoteria and rooted in the cryptic origins of contemplative man.

 

The ornate carvings and depictions in stone are almost overwhelming to everyone who views the chapel. But the abundant, half-hidden Templar and Masonic symbolism is profound and easily identified by the Initiated. There abounds hundreds of references to Christian parables, Biblical characters, the ancient Knights Templar, Freemasonry, and commentary on the religious-political climate of that time in our long past.

 

The chapel is a perfect exemplification of our sacred geometry and incorporates many easily recognized Masonic and Templar symbols in its architectural designs. The Apprentice Pillar with its attendant carvings, the Master’s Pillar, the hidden and much speculated upon contents of the subterranean crypt, the proliferation of Templar splayed and floriated crosses, obvious reference to the Masonic degrees, transparent references to Templarism, and so much more, can be found everywhere. There is a lintel at the east end of the south aisle bearing a familiar inscription in Latin which translates:

 

“Wine is strong, a King is stronger, women are even stronger, but Truth conquers all”

 

There is such a profusion of intricate carvings incorporated into the design and construction of every minute detail, that you can easily lose yourself for hours while just wandering.

 

To the best of my knowledge, Rosslyn Chapel represents the only place where such an obvious and overtly profuse collection of Masonic and Templar esoterica and symbolism is displayed together in a structure predating the traditional origins of the Craft.

 

Additionally, the founder and builder was documented as an heir to the heritage of the Knights of the temple as well as a Knight Templar himself. The dating of the construction of the chapel as well as its proximity to other known Templar and Masonic sites of pilgrimage leads me to the conclusion that Rosslyn Chapel is of significant importance to Masons and Knights Templar and may well be the common factor linking the respective orders.